In 1958, we went from glory to glory, headlining with the likes of Eddie Cochran (“Summertime
Blues”), Gene Vincent (“Be-Bop-A-Lula”) and Bobby Darin (“Splish Splash”). Bobby was another Italian boy from the Bronx, a few years my senior and more hip to the ways of the business world.
He became a close friend and a mentor, giving me good advice about how to read my contracts and file my taxes. Bobby grew up the same way I did and had many of the same worries. He spoke to my frugal nature, my inner Mom.
A lot of early rockers got jerked around and bled dry by their agents, their record companies and the crowd of scammers that follow the money wherever it goes. If I managed to survive rock stardom with a couple nickels to rub together, no small credit goes to Bobby Darin, who spoke my language and gave me free accounting lessons on the tour bus.
In the fall we got invited to join another superstar, Buddy Holly, on what was billed as “The Biggest Show of Stars.” Buddy had a streak of hits that could make DiMaggio jealous: “That’ll Be the Day,” “Peggy Sue,” “Everyday,” “Oh Boy,” “Maybe Baby” and “It’s So Easy (to Fall in Love).”
He’d only been recording for a year, but he had already established a rock-and-roll sound that everyone was mimicking. I got to know Buddy when he moved to New York in August. He’d just married a New Yorker, Maria Elena Santiago, and he was happy in his new apartment. (He’d proposed to Maria Elena on their first date.)
We spent three weeks together on “The Biggest Show of Stars,” and we established a strong relationship––friendship and mutual musical admiration. When Buddy invited me to join him on his upcoming all-star “Winter Dance Party” tour, I was honored and I didn’t hesitate to say yes.